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Analysis: Wales show they are ready for every eventuality

Analysis: Wales show they are ready for every eventuality

Tomas Francis takes an upside down view of a crazy game in Oita. ©World Rugby via Getty Images

There is something to be said for being battle-hardened heading into a World Cup quarter-final, and Wales will certainly be that.

The Grand Slam champions clinched their place in the last eight with a bonus-point win over Fiji, but the 29-17 final score barely tells half the story.

Wales had to deal with a Fijian whirlwind and two tries in the first nine minutes, and even after they had seemingly weathered that storm, they found themselves trailing and a man down just before the hour.

Some teams might have cracked under such intense pressure, the physical nature of the contest simply mind-blowing at times.

But this Wales team have shown time and again just how resilient they are. When they pulled off the biggest turnaround in Guinness Six Nations history to beat France, Warren Gatland spoke of a team who had forgotten how to lose.

Their unbeaten run might have ended during the World Cup warm-up matches, but the character on show that Friday night in Paris endures.

They finished with a tackle success under 80% for the first time since their 2016 tour of New Zealand, and yet this game was built on incredible defensive resolve.

As Semi Radradra threatened with every touch of the ball, first on the wing, then in the centres, Wales scrambled for their lives.

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It paid off. After that opening salvo, Fiji were restricted to a penalty try from a rolling maul. For all that Radradra was exceptional – and he was, Wales were able to ensure that his breaks did not result in points.

Josh Adams typified the resilience. He was overrun by Josua Tuisova for the first try, and caught out of position for the second Fijian score, but bounced back with a hat-trick, and almost had four.

As Gatland admitted after the game, Adams’ emergence over the last year has allowed Wales to move to the next level.

His third try was a fine finish, made by Jonathan Davies. The centre spotted a chance, fended Jale Vatubua and then produced a magical offload that even Leone Nakarawa would have been proud to call his own.

Liam Williams never stopped coming, even shaking off one huge tackle from Radradra after claiming a chip over the top. He ended up adding a try to a great all-round display, popping up on Gareth Davies’ shoulder to effectively seal the game.

Wales have another game against Uruguay before they can turn their attentions to the quarter-final. That will involve some juggling for Gatland as he tries to manage a pretty bruised squad.

The Wales coach seemed confident about Jon Davies and Adams, both of whom came off with dead legs, while Dan Biggar will have to go through the return to play protocols after a collision with Williams.

That could mean some unusual combinations against Los Teros. Hallam Amos has been training at fly-half and may be called into emergency duty.

For Wales though, this World Cup is now guaranteed to extend into the knockout stages.

A quarter-final against either England or France looms large. Having beaten both in their last meetings, Wales will head into that game with confidence.

Thanks to the character on show in Oita, Gatland will know that his team are ready for whatever is thrown at them.